Objectives of the policy of the Directorate of Immigration on language use:
Any standard text prepared by the Directorate shall be in English when this is possible with respect to effort and cost.
Any interaction by the Directorate, both written and oral, shall be easily comprehensible by the applicant/recipient, and easy to respond to. Any written text by the Directorate shall be in clear and good Icelandic which can easily be translated into other languages without any risk of misunderstanding.
Article 1 Standard correspondence
Any original text of documents, decisions, reports, interaction etc. shall be in Icelandic in as good quality and clear manner as possible.
Any standard letters, for example, forms, ENDURSENDINGARBRÉF and information sheets regarding residence permits, citizenship, and international protection shall be both in Icelandic and English.
If an employee is working with a standard text which is to be translated, he/she shall consult the immediate supervisor as to whether he/she should translate the text or have it translated.
Article 2 Decisions
All decisions regarding residence permits, international protection and citizenship shall be in Icelandic and English. The text shall also contain guidelines in English on where a translation of the entire decision can be obtained.
Article 3 Non-standard letters
Non-standard letters and decisions shall be well and clearly phrased in Icelandic. The text shall also contain guidelines in English on where a translation of the entire letter can be obtained.
Article 4 Legally required translations
The Directorate of Immigration acts under the laws and regulations that apply to language use and the Directorate’s activities, including the commitments on grounds of Nordic cooperation. Guidelines, correspondence, and decisions, as well as communication with the Directorate’s applicants/clients, are translated when this is required according to law in excess of that stated in Articles 1-3.
Article 5 Translations in excess of legal requirements
Guidelines, correspondence and decisions, as well as other communication that fall outside of the rules in Articles 1-4, shall be translated into English if possible without extensive effort and cost by the Directorate.
Article 6 Responsibility for the rules of procedure
These rules of procedure shall be reviewed at least annually. The responsibility for the implementation, the review and improvement is held by the heads of each division who should notify the director about the review and, if appropriate, the need for amending the rules within a set timeframe.
Why do the divisions of the Directorate of Immigration need a police on language use?
The clientele of the Directorate of Immigration are of several nationalities and speak several languages. The Directorate has the duty to guide its clientele in a satisfactory manner. In certain instances there are stipulations to the effect that the guidelines shall be in a language that can reasonably be expected to be understood by the relevant person. Obviously, the Icelandic language cannot satisfy these conditions in every instance.
In order to eliminate uncertainty in language use and to facilitate the work procedures of the Directorate being more professional and efficient, setting a policy is necessary on when a text used by the personnel of the Directorate in their work should be translated or interpreted and when not.
Why was a decision made to translate into English instead of other languages?
English is the language that most of the clients of the Directorate of Immigration understand. Additionally, English is the language that is most easily translated with the use of translation software, for example google translate; hence it is most likely that the clientele can use such service if they choose to do so.
What benefits are obtained through translation?
Translations are a purchased service; hence it is not possible to translate all the texts used by the Directorate. It is clear, however, that time and money can be saved if the clientele immediately understand the text dispatched by the Directorate.
Translating standard letters and decisions facilitates certain economizing of the service. The same text can be translated once instead of the personnel assisting translating from Icelandic into English every time a request is made for this to be done.
The clients have less need to contact the Directorate by telephone, e-mail or to turn to the Service Center in order to receive assistance in understanding the contents of letters or decisions. The service rendered the clients becomes better and this saves time that can be used for other purposes.
Why are only standard decisions translated?
The initial emphasis is on texts that can be translated efficiently and effectively without much effort. Translation of variable texts that are prepared in individual cases would affect the efficiency of the procedure of a case and could thereby affect the service to applicants. Additionally, the costs could excessively increase. Taking this into account, the Directorate is of the opinion that it is not possible to translate all texts used in the activities because of the stringent financial framework of the Directorate and because the waiting period would also increase too much. A decision was therefore made on other measures being taken to realize the objective of always placing the applicant and his/her interests in the front seat.
In instances of non-standard texts, the summary decisions are in English, as well as a standard guideline text regarding the availability of interpretation and translation services.
Does it conform to the principle of equality that only standard texts are translated?
The principle of equality entails that comparable cases shall be comparably processed and that individuals in the same position shall receive the same service.
Persons in a position of being able to obtain standard letters, and thereby translated into English, receive the same service. Those not in this position receive a different service.
It is not deemed that this is a breach of the principle of equality. An effort is made to provide as good guidelines as possible in every instance.
This site contains the main rules of law on which the policy is based. The Ombudsman of Althingi (parliament) issued an opinion on 13 July 2020 (Case no. 9938/2018) containing a very good compilation of both written and unwritten rules on language use in the Icelandic administrative system.
Article 8 of the Act on the Status of the Icelandic Language and Icelandic Sign Language
Icelandic is the language of Althingi (parliament), the courts, the authorities, both state and the municipalities, the schools at all levels and other institutions that engage in and provide public services.
The explanatory note to this provision states the following among other things:
“If an exemption is to be made of the principal rule, a special authorization by law is required. When there exists a need to publish a text in another language than Icelandic, this shall be done with a translation of the original text. In many areas, particularly in the administration, communication surely takes place in other languages, for example, interaction by the Icelandic authorities and the authorities of foreign states, and interaction with international institutions and organizations, oral communication between the authorities and the citizens, for example, in matters relating to foreign persons residing in Iceland.”
The Nordic Language Convention
The Nordic Language Convention applies to oral and written communication of the citizens with the authorities. The citizens of the Nordic countries should be able to use their own languages as needed in their interaction with the authorities. The languages in question are in addition to Icelandic: Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Faroese, Greenlandic and Sami. The convention applies to oral and written communication. The authorities should provide an interpreter or translator at no cost to the party in question.
If both parties understand English, for example, using an interpreter can hardly be obligatory.